Underrated: Felix Dexter

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It’s easy to not notice someone when they do their job brilliantly – the fact they never stumble, or make mistakes and always deliver make them almost invisible. Having just watched the tribute to Felix who died last October I had genuinely forgotten just how much he had been in and how much I had watched and listened to his output. He was rarely the “star turn” in anything but was always brilliant. From “The Real McCoy” to “Citizen Khan” he appeared, delivered a great performance, and left again. When we saw him in Edinburgh at the Fringe he was a humble decent guy and it seems strange to me that he was never seen as the talent he obviously was.

In the tribute there was a point made that he tapped into the Black community in London in a way very few other comedians ever did – and obviously that material wasn’t meant for me – but his abilities as a comedian, character actor and serious actor went well beyond the colour of his skin. For me I don’t care about the gender, ethnicity or anything else in comedy; funny is funny. I remember as I started watching a lot of comedy in the 90s “The Real McCoy” was one of the shows I always tuned into and Felix’s characters and contributions stood out in the show. The writing/improvisation combined with a well crafted performance made him the star of the show – intentionally or otherwise.

For me his character comedy was among the best I’ve seen – as good as Coogan, Whitehouse or Barker but he never managed to break through to the front of our lives. From Nathanial the Accountant on The Real McCoy through to Julius Olefemwe  on both “Down the Line” on radio and the subsequent TV version “Bellamy’s People” he performed the roles fantastically. And while comedians loved him, the public loved him on the radio, TV and on stage there is a distinct absence of him online, very little information exists about him – even his Wikipedia Page is brief. His own website sits stuck in time with “upcoming gigs” listed for a couple of years ago. And it makes you think about all these other great talents, but for a bit of luck and the power that be taking a risk occasionally, how many other great actors, comedians and performers just missed out on the big time but we all still recognise.

In the interviews on the tribute his friends and co-stars talked about him never being negative or playing the race card when the big opportunities never came through and that shows you that his focus was about the work. The skill of making people laugh is a very difficult one and his humour played with conventions of race and the perceptions of race, they went beyond being about race and were about character and big belly laughs. His premature death to cancer is a huge loss to the world of comedy – shame it took his death for us all to realise just how big a loss he would be.

JD

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